WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Vigo County School Corporation is looking to join dozens of other schools across the country in a class-action lawsuit against major social media companies on Monday.
The lawsuit, which is led by the Kansas City law firm Wagstaff and Carmell, is against Snapchat, Tiktok, Youtube and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram. It argues that students’ mental health has declined as a result of using these apps, according to Vigo County Superintendent Chris Himsel.
“That’s basically what the litigation is about. It’s trying to curtail some of those behaviors of the social media companies, so we can reduce the impact of those addictive practices that they put into place,” he said.
The VCSC school board voted unanimously to pursue the next steps during the meeting on Monday. Himsel said there is no timetable for the lawsuit, and this just allows them to pursue the next steps.
“Specifically, our next step would be, since the board approved [the request] moving forward is that we’ll engage our local attorney and the attorneys involved in the litigation, and we’ll sign up and figure out what we need to do,” he said.
He referenced his time in the classroom this past school year, and said the need for mental health resources has increased as these sites have risen to prominence.
“I would definitely say that it was very difficult as a teacher to redirect students from social media and all that,” he said. “Whether it’s coincidence or cause, what we have noticed is that since social media came into existence, we have seen a steady increase in the amount of mental health supports we need to provide, not only students, but families in general.”
In the short term, the corporation discussed plans to keep students safe during a blistering heatwave this week. Tom Balitewicz, the assistant superintendent of student services, said they look at national and local forecasts to help make decisions, as well as looking at guidelines created alongside Union Sports Medicine.
“There’s different cutoffs and the guidance depends on what the heat index is. Anything over 110 degrees, we want to keep students inside as much as possible,” he said.
This applies for after-school activities like athletics, and things during the day like recess and gym class. Balitewicz said they would proceed with caution considering how multiple days of high temperatures can wear down students.
“This is a unique one because I went out at about 11 a.m., and it was already pretty hot out there, so that’s a concern of ours,” he said. “And again, it’s a cumulative affect over the course of many days of being in this heat that we’re concerned about.”
The board also voted to amend the date of the next meeting– which will now be Sep. 18th, with a meeting planned for Sep. 25th being canceled.